WITNESS

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    First published in 1952, Witness came on the heels of America’s trial of the century, in which Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss, a full-standing member of the political establishment, of spying for the Soviet Union.

    In this penetrating philosophical memoir, Chambers recounts the famous case as well as his own experiences as a Communist agent in the United States, his later renunciation of Communism, and his conversion to Christianity. Chambers’ worldview—“man without mysticism is a monster”—helped to make political conservatism a national force.

    Witness packs the emotional wallop and the literary power of a classic Russian novel and has gained Chambers recognition by critics on both sides of the spectrum as a truly gifted writer.

    Forewords by two prominent conservative pundits bring the book into the modern era.

    Softcover, 808 pages

    Table of Contents

    Witness and Friend: Remembering Whittaker Chambers

    by William F. Buckley Jr.

    A Masterpiece at Fifty

    by Robert D. Novak

    Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children

    1. Flight

    2. The Story of a Middle-Class Family

    3. The Outrage an the Hope of the World

    4. The Communist Party

    5. Underground: The First Apparatus

    6. The Child

    7. Underground: The Second Apparatus

    8. Colonel Boris Bykov

    9. The Division Point

    10. The Tranquil Years

    11. The Hiss Case

    12. The Bridge

    13. The Hiss Case II

    14. 1949

    15. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

    Index

    Excerpt

    Foreword In the Form of a Letter to My Children Beloved Children

    I am sitting in the kitchen of the little house at Medfield, our second farm which is cut off by the ridge and a quarter-mile across the fields from our home place, where you are. I am writing a book. It it I am speaking to you. But I am also speaking to the world. To both I owe an accounting.

    It is a terrible book. It is terrible in what it tells about men. If anything, it is more terrible in what it tells about the world in which you live. It is about what the world calls the Hiss-Chambers Case, or even more simply, the Hiss Case. It is about a spy case. All the props of an espionage case are there—foreign agents, household traitors, stolen documents, microfilm, futive meetings, secret hideaways, phony names, an informer, investigations, trials, official justice.

    But if the Hiss Case were only this, it would not be worth my writing about or your reading about. It would be another fat folder in the sad files of the police, another crime drama in which the props would be mistaken for the play (as many people have consistently mistaken them). It would not be what alone gave it meaning, what the mass of men and women instinctively sensed it to be, often without quite knowing why. It would not be what, at the very beginning, I was moved to call it: "a tragedy of history."

    For it was more than human tragedy. Much more than Alger Hiss or Whittaker Chambers was on trial in the trials of Alger Hiss. Two faiths were on trial. Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies. At issue in the Hiss Case was the question whether this sick society, which we call Western civilization, could in its extremity still cast up a man whose faith in it was so great that he would voluntarily abandon those things which men hold good, including life, to defend it. At issue was the question whether this man's faith could prevail against a man whose equal faith it was that this society is sick beyond saving, and that mercy itself pleads for its swift extinction and replacement by another. At issue was the question whether, in the desperately divided society, there still remained the will to recognize the issues in time to offset the immense rally of public power to distort and pervert the facts.

    At heart, the Great Case was this critical conflict of faiths; that is why it was a great case. On a scale personal enough to be felt by all, but big enough to be symbolic, the two irreconcilable faiths of our time - Communism and Freedom - came to grips in the persons of two conscious and resolute men. Indeed, it would have been had, in a world still only dimly aware of what the conflict is about, to find two other men who knew so clearly. Both had been schooled in the same view of history (the Marxist view). Both were trained by the same party in the same selfless, semisoldierly discipline. Neither would nor could yield without betraying, not himself, but his faith; and the different character of these faiths was shown by the different conduct of the two men toward each other throughout the struggle. For, with dark certitude, both knew, almost from the beginning, that the Great Case could end only in the destruction of one or both of the contending figures, just as the history of our times (both men had beentaught) can end only in the destruction of one or both of the contending forces.

    But this destruction is not the tragedy. The nature of the tragedy is itself misunderstood. Part of the world supposes that the tragedy in the Hiss case lies in the acts of disloyalty revealed. Part believes that the tragedy lies in the fact that an able, intelligent man, Alger Hiss, was cut short in the course of a brilliant public career. Some find it tragic that Whittaker Chambers, of his own will, gave up a $30,000-a-year job and a secure future to haunt for the rest of his days the ruins of his life. These are shocking facts, criminal facts, disturbing facts: they are not tragic.

    Crime, violence, infamy are not tragedy. Tragedy occurs when a human soul awakens and seeks, in suffering and pain, to free itself from crime, violence, infamy, even at the cost of life. The struggle is the tragedy—not defeat or death. That is why the spectacle of tragedy has always filled men, not with despair, but with a sense of hope and exaltation. That is why this terrible book is also a book of hope. For it is about the struggle of the human soul—of more than one human soul. It is in this sense that the Hiss Case is a tragedy. This is its meaning beyond the headlines, the revelations, the same and sufering of the people involved. But this tragedy will have been for nothing unless men understand it rightly, and from it the world takes hope and heart to begin its own tragic struggle with the evil that besets it from within and from without, unless it faces the fact that the world, the whole world, is sick unto death and that, among other things, this Case has turned a finger of fierce light into the suddenly opened and reeking body of our time.

    The Watershed of Modern Conservatism by abijah07 (BarnesandNoble.com)

    A foundational historical document for understanding all that has transpired spiritually, politically, and intellectually in America during the 20th Century to today's news headlines. Above all else "Witness" brings clarity out of the deliberate, purposeful obfuscation of the Marxist liberals now holding the commanding heights of power in the federal government. Well written, it is nearly impossible to put down and has the authentic tension, drama, smell, and emotional color of one of the most dangerous periods of American history, second only to the destruction that the U.S.Constitution and the American Republic is currently suffering at hands of the very people about which Whittaker Chambers in his book, "Witness,"valiantly attempted to warn us.

    Whittaker Chambers: Man of Courage and Faith

    By Lee Edwards, Ph.D. April 2, 2011

    The wave of publicity about Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI agent who became a master spy for the Russians, brings to mind a far different man--Whittaker Chambers, a veteran Soviet spy who became, in William F. Buckley Jr.'s words, "the most important American defector from Communism." This April marks the 100th anniversary of Chambers' birth.

    In August 1948, Chambers, an editor at Time, identified Alger Hiss, a golden boy of the liberal establishment, as a fellow member of his underground Communist cell in the 1930s. Hiss, a former assistant to the Secretary of State and former General Secretary of the United Nations founding conference at San Francisco, and then president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, immediately denied Chambers' allegation.

    A great deal more than the reputations of the two men was at stake. If Hiss was innocent, anti-Communism--and the careers of those closely associated with it, like Richard Nixon, a prominent member of the congressional investigating committee--would be dealt a deadly blow. If Hiss was guilty, anti-Communism would become a permanent part of the political landscape, and its spokesmen would become national leaders.

    It took two protracted trials (Hiss reluctantly sued Chambers for slander), but Hiss was finally convicted of perjury for denying his espionage activities and sentenced to five years in jail. Hiss went to his grave more than 40 years later still protesting his innocence--and still lauded by many on the Left. But the Venona transcripts of secret KGB and GRU messages during World War II (released in the mid-1990s) confirmed that Alger Hiss had been a Soviet spy not only in the 1930s, but at least until 1945.

    In 1952, Chambers published his magisterial, best-selling autobiography, Witness. The work argued that America faced a transcendent, not a transitory, crisis; the crisis was one not of politics or economics but of faith; and secular liberalism, the dominant "ism" of the day, was a watered-down version of Communist ideology. The New Deal, Chambers insisted, was not liberal democratic but "revolutionary" in its nature and intentions. All these themes, especially that the crisis of the 20th century was one of faith, resonated deeply with conservatives.

    Among those who agreed with and often quoted Chambers' uncompromising assessment was a future California governor and U.S. President--Ronald Reagan. Indeed, Witness may have enlisted more American anti-Communists than almost any other book of the Cold War. They included, in addition to our 40th President, William A. Rusher, longtime publisher of National Review; veteran journalist John Chamberlain, who worked with Chambers at Time; and columnist-commentator Robert Novak.

    The work continues to have a telling impact. At a Washington dinner last November, retiring Senator Bob Kerrey admitted that reading Witness had enabled him, for the first time in his life, to understand what Communism was all about.

    The book is not easy reading but is permeated with what Bill Buckley called "Spenglerian gloom." Exhausted by the demands of the two Hiss trials and in poor health (he had suffered several heart attacks), Chambers believed that he was probably leaving the winning side but found reason to keep fighting against Communism for his children. As he recounts in Witness, he once surveyed, on a dark cold night at his Maryland farm, the formidable forces arrayed against him--the powerful establishment, the hostile press, the skeptical public, the calumnies of the Hiss partisans--and seriously considered suicide. But when his young son John came looking for him crying, "Papa! Papa! Don't ever go away," he replied, "No, no, I won't ever go away."

    Chambers continued to make significant contributions to the conservative movement until his death in July 1961. Publisher Henry Regnery recalled that he sent page proofs of Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind to Chambers, who immediately urged the editor of Time to devote the entire book section to a review of "one of the most important" books he had read "in some time." Regnery never forgot his "sense of exultation" when the long, laudatory Time review arrived.

    Chambers was a close friend and mentor of Bill Buckley. Invited to join National Review's masthead, he at first demurred, pessimistic about its chances of success. But he was persuaded to come aboard by Buckley's argument that "the culture of liberty deserves to survive" and to have its own journal. One of Chambers' more memorable contributions to the magazine was his evisceration of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He called its plot "preposterous," its characterization "primitive," and much of its effect "sophomoric." In a lifetime of reading, he concluded, "I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained." His review, "Big Sister Is Watching You," helped bar conservatism's door to Rand's godless technocratic ideas.

    Chambers was also a private critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy. He told Buckley that McCarthy was "a slugger and a rabble-rouser" who "simply knows that somebody threw a tomato and the general direction from which it came."

    Chambers was "one of the great men of our time," wrote Henry Regnery, who had known many great men during his decades-long publishing career. As a witness to God's grace and the fortifying power of faith, Chambers "put all of us immeasurably in his debt." For countless conservatives, Whittaker Chambers has never gone away.

    Lee Edwards, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the author of several books, including The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America.

    Source: The Heritage Foundation

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